Public has chance to comment on roadless initiative | AspenTimes.com
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Public has chance to comment on roadless initiative

Heather McGregor

The U.S. Forest Service is offering an easy way to comment on its Roadless Area Conservation project during a public comment forum on Thursday.

People may state their views for up to three minutes while a court reporter makes a written record. Written comments will also be accepted at the meeting and through July 17.

The forum is set for 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the First Choice Inn in West Glenwood Springs.

At issue are 89 roadless areas in the White River National Forest, encompassing 642,000 acres. That’s 28 percent of the entire 2.3 million-acre national forest, which stretches from Parachute and Meeker to Summit County.

Burnt Mountain, East Maroon, North Woody Creek, Independence, Hunter Creek, Sloan Peak, Basalt Mountain and Red Table Mountain are among the roadless areas included in the project.

Nationwide, the Roadless Area Conservation project applies to more than 54 million acres of roadless areas on the national forests and grasslands – or nearly one-quarter of the 192 million-acre National Forest system.

These lesser-known parts of national forests are remote and untrammeled.

They are still wilderness, lacking roads and powerlines and structures. But they are not subject to the no-motors, no-machines constraints of designated wilderness areas.

Mountain biking, for example, would still be allowed.

Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck has included his preferred alternatives in a draft environmental impact statement on the project.

Proposed policies under the Roadless Conservation project are divided into three categories: The first category is a set of four prohibition alternatives. They range from allowing road building, banning road building except for timber sales, banning road building except for timber sales done for forest health or wildlife habitat, or banning all road building and all new roads to accommodate timber sales. The Forest Service preferred alternative allows road building for logging purposes to continue. The second category is a set of four procedural alternatives that affect the timing for enacting the Roadless Area Conservation policies. They range from not applying the road-building policies, applying them every 15 years during the forest plan revision process, applying them on a project-by-project basis as various proposals come up, or applying them project-by-project until the forest plan is up for revision and then applying them forestwide.

Dombeck’s preferred alternative waits until forest plans are revised to enact the policies.

For the White River National Forest, that means right now, since the forest plan is undergoing revision this year. But for the Rio Grande National Forest, for example, which recently completed its forest plan revision, the policies wouldn’t take effect until 2013. The third category is a set of four alternatives that apply to 8.5 million roadless acres on the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. The alternatives range from exempting the Tongass from the roadless policy, delaying a decision until the Tongass review is finished in 2004 but do project-by-project review in the meantime, putting off a decision until 2004, or prohibiting road building in old-growth forest and remote recreation areas.

Dombeck’s preferred alternative puts off Tongass decisions until 2004.

So while the Forest Service has put forward a process aimed at preserving roadless areas, Dombeck would still allow road building for timber sales, wouldn’t ban any new road building until forest plans are revised, and postpone a decision on Tongass road building for four years.

More information on the roadless proposal is available on the Forest Service Web site at http://www.roadless.fs.fed.us.

In addition to Thursday’s meeting, comments can be sent in via fax to (877) 703-2494; via mail to U.S. Forest Service, Roadless Area Proposed Rule, P.O. Box 221090, Salt Lake City, Utah 84122, or via e-mail to roadlessdeis@fs.fed.us.


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